In search of the perfect tree

9 years ago

To the editor:
There is no perfect Christmas tree. Ignore all the advice you have ever heard or read about choosing the perfect tree. Oh, except for the loose spills, as we called the needles. I left Houlton without asking why they were called spills before they ever spilled. Tired of explaining the word, I quit using it in Pennsylvania before I came to New York state. Except when I slip up. One could slip on the spills, of course, if there were a lot of them.

Where were we? Advice about loose you-know: If you shake the tree and they all drop off, the tree’s too dry.
Back when I was growing up, my brother Leonard, who was also growing up, and I went with Porter out into our woods to bring back a tree. Ina specified fir, not spruce, saying, “You can tell from the shape of the spills; fir is flat and spruce round.” We often took back two trees, just to be sure. Leonard, younger by two-and-a-half-years, grew to be almost a foot taller than I in high school, and delighted in calling me his “little sister” to his friends.
Once away from Maine, I discovered trees cost money. Absurd! Oh, well, at Penn State I paid 75 cents for the first, to go on my desk. Prices have changed, along with methods: Take along a saw and chop down your own, support the Boy Scouts or a farmer who trucks trees into town. Go alone or share, which meant hearing, “How about this one? You want that one? It’s too big.” “Phooey,” I said each time, “It will fit.” At home, in the living room, I pruned a lot of trees.
Every tree, once trimmed, was the best ever. I had help with the lights — two strings of the regular ones, two of the little twinklies, and two of white snowball lights. My helper hinted that there were too many.
Eventually, stressed out over the perfect tree and tired of taking home others’ choices, one year I took off tooling down the road to a trucked-in place, as I sang, “Off I go for a not-perfect tree, a tree that is waiting just for me.” I found it right away. It was a perfectly not-perfect tree. I still go there.
Postscript: Perfection is in the eye — and heart — of the beholder. May you and yours have a perfect Christmas season!

Byrna Porter Weir
Rochester, N.Y